The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA

Innovations in Gothic Design

Fifth grade French students are using the iLab to design and create their own stained glass windows.
What better way to understand the artistry and detail of a gothic stained glass window than to create one yourself? Students in Danny Chin’s fifth grade French class are exploring Parisian architecture by designing, cutting, and painting their own “Rose Windows,” inspired by the circular stained glass windows found in Gothic cathedrals and chapels like Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

In previous years, fifth grade French students used the iLab’s 3D printer to create small scale models of famous Parisian monuments during this unit. However, Danny wanted to incorporate greater creativity into the project and approached Design, Technology, and Innovation teacher Allison Bishop for a new concept. Together, they decided to have students design a pie-shaped piece of stained glass that could be rotated and replicated to form the circular design of the Rose windows found in Parisian cathedrals. After considering different materials, Allison came up with the idea of using the laser cutter to form each design in acrylic, which students could then paint to achieve the brightly illuminated effect of a stained glass window. After testing sharpies and acrylic paint, they decided to use nail polish to paint the windows, as it replicates both the glossiness of a stained glass window and the imperfect rippled quality of 13th century glass. Fifth grade students are well-prepared for this project, as it incorporates a 2D design program that they have previously used in digital literacy as well as math skills learned in geometry to navigate the shapes and degrees of rotation within the circle.

During their study of Parisian architecture and monuments, students learned about Gothic architecture and became familiar with its flying buttresses, columns, and gargoyles. This study also lays the groundwork for further study of Parisian architecture in Upper School French, where they will study Haussman’s redesign of Paris in the 1800s. “Architecture is a unique dimension to the study of Paris that students don’t always hear much about,” says Danny. “Everyone know about baguettes and berets, but in Paris people walk by these monuments every day. Now, students have a tangible object that connects them to the place where the French language is spoken.”